While solar panel arrays are common on farms, they have been less popular in residential areas — but that is changing.
Solar panels for your home are now more affordable and accessible. Since 2008, the number of home solar installations has increased from 1.2 gigawatts to an estimated 30 gigawatts, providing enough energy to power almost 6 million homes. If you’re thinking about investing in a home solar power system, ask yourself the right questions before you make a decision.
1. Do I Have the Right Location for a Home Solar Panel System?
A south-facing roof with some shading from trees or adjacent buildings is the best location for a home solar panel system. To maximize the amount of energy your solar panels produce, the sun should hit your roof for at least five hours per day.
2. Is There Enough Space?
You’ll need about 20 panels (or 350-plus square feet of roof) to power the average residential solar system. To install the panels properly, your roof should be free from obstructions, such as multiple chimneys.
3. What Is the Condition of My Roof?
Most solar panels come with a 30-year warranty. Installing new solar on an old roof could add to your long-term costs. In time, your aging roof will need to be repaired or replaced. For this, solar panels will have to be removed. It’s best to install a home solar panel system on a new or recently repaired roof.
4. How Much Energy Do I Need?
The size of the ideal solar array depends on your energy use. The U.S. Department of Energy has a calculator that lets you estimate the potential performance of different solar installations. This tool can help you determine how much energy your solar array could produce in a year.
5. What Is the Cost of Electricity?
In areas where power costs less, it can take longer to see a return on investment in solar panels. In areas where power costs are high, your investment will start to pay off sooner. Ask your local utility provider about the price of power in your area, or check the U.S. Energy Information Administration for electricity rates to see how yours compare to the national average.
6. Can I Sell Back Extra Power?
If your solar panels generate more power than you use, some utility companies will purchase overages. This process, called net metering, allows you to further reduce your utility bills. As of now, 38 states and the District of Columbia offer net metering. To see if your state participates, consult the National Conference of State Legislators.
7. Are Tax Incentives Available?
As of 2019, the typical solar panel system costs $12,810 after-tax credits. Not all states offer tax credits to homeowners for installing solar panels. Check to see if your state offers tax and non-tax incentives, including rebate, loan and grant programs.
If you decide to go solar, call your Farm Bureau agent to make sure your panels and home have the protection you need.